Sci-Fi Roundup for November 5

Compiled by Carl Slaughter: (1) Disney charges high price for Last Jedi, smaller town cinemas refuse to play.

(2) Star Trek movie scenes: “Star Trek: 15 Deleted Scenes You Won’t Believe Were Cut”

In this deleted scene from Insurrection, Captain Picard has an unsuccessful working lunch in his ready room. He drops a bowl of well-dressed cheese salad on himself, which would have provided a hefty laugh in the cinema.

Riker enters, and sneakily snares a bit of the salad, while Picard talks about the mission at hand and cleans himself off. The pair discusses the radiation in the region, before being summoned to the bridge.

This scene wasn’t exactly crucial to the plot, but it was full of interesting character beats. Picard enjoys dramatic orchestral music at lunchtime, Riker expresses amusement upon seeing his captain covered in gorgonzola, and the pair are clearly very comfortable together, discussing complex science while one of them is walking around and trying to smarten himself up. None of this is plot-essential, but it helps the characters feel fully fleshed out. They should’ve kept it in.


(3) Orville versus Discovery: ScreenRant denies it — “No, The Orville Is Not Better Than Star Trek: Discovery”.

The Orville debuted on FOX a couple of weeks ago to strong ratings (aided by its Sunday Night Football lead-in) before settling into its regular Thursday night time slot. Executive Produced by Star Trek veteran Brannon Braga and MacFarlane, who also headlines the series as Captain Ed Mercer, The Orville features a very familiar (by design) premise to Star Trek fans. A science fiction comedy/drama set in the 25th century, The Orville centers on an exploratory ship in the service of the Planetary Union – essentially Star Trek‘s United Federation of Planets – commanded by Mercer and his First Officer and ex-wife Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki). Their crew is a multi-species assortment of humans and aliens, and together thus far, they’ve engaged in the morality plays and space battles fans associate with classic TV Star Trek. The Orville is very clearly modeled after Star Trek: The Next Generation in nearly every way, save for its sitcom-level comedy.

This Sunday, after years of production delays and creative upheavals, Star Trek: Discovery premiered its first hour on CBS also to strong ratings (better than The Orville‘s) before settling into its berth behind the paywall of the network’s streaming service, CBS All-Access. Melding the visual style of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek films with the more complex drama classic TV Trek is known for, Discovery is a prequel series set a decade before the voyages of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and the Starship Enterprise. The first way (of many) Discovery breaks Trek tradition is by centering not on a captain, but on Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), the First Officer of the U.S.S. Shenzhou commanded by Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). Raised on Vulcan by Sarek (James Frain), the father of Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Georgiou makes a life-altering and tragic decision when the Shenzhou comes face to face with impending war with the resurgent Klingon Empire

(4) Star Trek: Discovery premise: “New ‘Star Trek’ Series Makes Massive Science Blunder”.

…But alas, the writers have stumbled into a scientific error so egregious, and so entangled in the entire plotline, that I fear the new Star Trek cannot recover. (Note: a few mild spoilers ahead.)

Episodes 4 and 5, released on Oct. 8 and 15, revealed that the USS Discovery, the ship that the series revolves around, has an advanced form of transport that allows it to travel anywhere in the universe instantaneously. Unlike all previous Star Trek transport tech, this one uses a biological mechanism, based on mushrooms.

(5) Unused: io9 invites you to “Listen to This Short Album of Unused Star Trek: Discovery Theme”.

“When I came in [Bryan] described what they were doing and he was so interested in me possibly scoring this series, he asked me if I would write a theme,” Eidelman said. According to Eidelman, he initially connected with Fuller on the recommendation of Nicholas Meyer, Star Trek VI’s director, and a consulting producer on Discovery. So Eidelman wrote a theme, and then another piece, for Fuller’s consideration.

But when Fuller stepped down as showrunner, the deal fell apart. “New people came in and they went in a different direction,” Eidelman explained. “The reason I was there was because of Bryan Fuller, and when he left I kind of went with him and wasn’t kept on. I was not signed on. I was never hired or engaged formally. I was just encouraged.”

(6) Star Trek: Den of Geek knows “57 nerdy things about the original crew films”.

  1. Persis Khambata had also been cast for Star Trek: Phase II as the Navigator – Lieutenant Ilia – and also had test footage and photos taken of her, in an original series skant-type uniform, and wearing a bald cap. In those shots, Ilia was wearing the head band that Dr Chapel ends up placing on the head of probe-Ilia in the film.

(7) Den of Geek claims to have the answer: “Does Gene Roddenberry’s ghost haunt the Star Trek set?”

There have been whispered rumors that the ghost of Roddenberry, who died in 1991, haunts the old Star Trek sets, leaving a whiff of aftershave in his wake.

(8) Discovery producers defend darker tone: “‘Star Trek: Discovery’ is a journey toward optimism”.

It’s the darkness of the characters and the background, which is set amid a war with the Klingons, as well as potentially continuity-bending aspects like Burnham being the adoptive daughter of Sarek, Spock’s dad, that have some longtime Trekkies nervous.

If you’re among those worried about the changes brought on by “Discovery,” the producers have some advice for you: Just wait a little bit.

“We are canon,” executive producer Alex Kurtzman said in an interview Saturday. “You’ll have to be patient with us.”

(9) Anthony Rapp interview at TV Guide. “Star Trek: Discovery’s Anthony Rapp Weighs in on Stamets’ Game-Changing Decision”.

Warning: This post contains spoilers from Episode 5 of Star Trek: Discovery, “Choose Your Pain.” Read at your own risk.]

Star Trek: Discovery just dropped even more shocking details about Lorca’s (Jason Isaacs) fascinating creature who is proving to be more than meets the eye.

In Sunday night’s episode, we find out that not only is the tardigrade sentient, it doesn’t like being forced to navigate the spore drive. The stress from one too many jumps sends the creature into survival mode, prompting Paul Stamets, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) to look for other alternatives.

Fan Theories About Star Trek Discovery

Compiled by Carl Slaughter:


(1) Is Ash Tyler a Klingon spy? ScreenRant has the story: “Star Trek: Discovery: Is [SPOILER] a Klingon Spy?”.

The fifth episode of Star Trek: Discovery, titled “Choose Your Pain,” at last debuted a new member of the main cast whose name has been in the opening credits since the very beginning but fans had yet to meet: Lieutenant Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif). But the new crew member of the U.S.S. Discovery arrives surrounded by controversy and suspicion: is Lt. Ash Tyler who he says he is or is he someone else entirely?

(2) Is Paul Stamets from the mirror universe? ScreenRant again: “Star Trek: Discovery: Does Stamets’ Mirror Image Hint at the Mirror Universe?”

While some fans complain that Star Trek: Discovery is a poor reflection of the Star Trek they know and love, as the new series progresses, it has taken on more and more pleasingly familiar elements of Star Trek. The fifth episode of Discovery, “Choose Your Pain,” introduced one of the Original Series’ fan favorite baddies, Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson), who encounters Discovery’s Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) when they are captured and imprisoned by the Klingons. By the end of “Choose Your Pain”, Discovery dropped a major hint as to another classic aspect of Star Trek to which the crew of the Discovery are poised to boldly go

(3) Is Captain Lorca secretly clinically insane? “Star Trek: Discovery: What Does The Final Shot in ‘Lethe’ Mean?”

Star Trek has had its share of controversy among its starship captains, from James T. Kirk’s (William Shatner) penchant for risk-taking and disobeying orders to Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) tricking the Romulans into entering the Dominion War. With ‘Lethe’, the sixth episode of Star Trek: Discovery, we’ve entered a new frontier: a captain who is psychologically unfit for command and is discovered by his superior officer, but has grown adept at hiding his condition from his crew and fostering their loyalty. By the last shot of ‘Lethe’, with Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) brooding alone in his quarters facing his own reflection in a window, we’re unsure what exactly to make of Discovery’s commander, but it spells bad tidings for Starfleet and the Federation’s war against the Klingons. Just how bad is the question.

Emma Newman’s Industrial Magic Series

By Carl Slaughter: The first two books in Emma Newman’s Industrial Magic series have come out from Tor this year.

by Emma Newman
Released March 14, 2017

The year is 1850 and Great Britain is flourishing, thanks to the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts. When a new mage is discovered, Royal Society elites descend like buzzards to snatch up a new apprentice. Talented mages are bought from their families at a tremendous price, while weak mages are snapped up for a pittance. For a lower middle class family like the Gunns, the loss of a son can be disastrous, so when seemingly magical incidents begin cropping up at home, they fear for their Ben’s life and their own livelihoods.

But Benjamin Gunn isn’t a talented mage. His sister Charlotte is, and to prevent her brother from being imprisoned for false reporting she combines her powers with his to make him seem a better prospect.

When she discovers a nefarious plot by the sinister Doctor Ledbetter, Charlotte must use all her cunning and guile to protect her family, her secret and her city.

Brother’s Ruin is the first in a new gaslamp fantasy series by Emma Newman.

By Emma Newman
Released October 17, 2017

Charlotte’s magical adventures continue in Weaver’s Lament, the sequel to Emma Newman’s Brother’s Ruin.

Charlotte is learning to control her emerging magical powers under the secret tutelage of Magus Hopkins.

Her first covert mission takes her to a textile mill where the disgruntled workers are apparently destroying expensive equipment.

And if she can’t identify the culprits before it’s too late, her brother will be exiled, and her family dishonoured…

Praise for Emma Newman:

“Newman reworks the familiar idea of magical schools, breathing some new life into the premise by exploring the darker corners of London and their murky morality.” ? Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Emma Newman

EMMA NEWMAN writes dark short stories and science fiction and urban fantasy novels. Between Two Thorns, the first book in Emma’s acclaimed Split Worlds urban fantasy series, was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Awards for Best Novel and Emma was nominated for Best Newcomer.




Twitter: @emapocalyptic

Facebook: Emma Newman

A Baker’s Dozen Questions for Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford

By Carl Slaughter: Nimbus, the final book in Jacey Bedford’s Psi-Tech trilogy came out on October 3, and she’s already at work on the third book in the Rowankind trilogy – this time simply called Rowankind.

CARL SLAUGHTER:  First, let’s define terms.  What exactly is psi-tech?

JACEY BEDFORD:  Psi-tech is the broad term for neural implant technology that turns someone with a natural tendency towards psionics into a fully functioning telepath. Along with telepathy come other skills/talents. There are psi-mechs who can mesh mentally with machines. Empaths can sense what people (even non-psi-techs) are feeling, though they can’t ‘read minds’ as such. Navigators have an inbuilt sense of direction and can find their way around (a planet or the whole galaxy) by intuition. Dee-Ells (Doolittles, get it?) can connect with animals and non-humans in both directions, i.e. sense what they’re thinking/feeling and transmit feelings/ideas in return. As you can imagine, without language, it’s not an exact science. Healers (very rare) can manipulate flesh and bone and share life energy. In all these skillsets there are levels. Cara is a top grade telepath and a level three empath. Ben is a top grade Navigator but his telepathy is minimal. He can barely throw a thought as far as his feet. Other characters have different skillsets.

CS:  What’s the context for the science premise?

JB:  We’re five hundred years in the future. Humanity developed jump gates in the 22nd century, which allowed the megacorporations to begin to colonise the galaxy. Platinum is a required catalyst for jump-tech. Unfortunately the technology is flawed. For every jump through foldspace a small, but significant amount of platinum is lost. Though platinum is common, it exists in small hard-to-extract quantities. For example all the platinum refined on earth to the present day would barely cover an Olympic swimming pool to the depth of twelve inches. So to keep the jump gates open, the megacorporations are desperately seeking more and more platinum. It’s the most valuable commodity in the galaxy.

CS:  How does this affect the characters?

JB:  Psi-tech implant technology was developed by the megacorporations. The psi-techs’ special skills make them invaluable ‘commodities’ as far as the megacorps are concerned. On the one hand psi-techs get to fly space ships and do cool jobs in outer space. They are looked after from cradle to grave, and rarely want for anything except freedom. They are buried in contracts so dense that the only way to get away from the megacorp that paid for their implant and training is to die or to run. (And even running is dangerous when your bosses can find you mind-to-mind.) There are rumours of a place called Sanctuary where runaway psi-techs can find help, but at the time the trilogy opens, Sanctuary has been broken by the megacorporations.

CS:  Bring us up to speed on the story before Nimbus.

JB:  Empire of Dust. Cara is on the run from Alphacorp and a particularly shady boss (and ex-lover) when she hooks up with Ben who works for the Trust taking a team of psi-techs to set up new colonies and babysit them for their first year. Ben, Cara and a team of psi-techs take a party of colonists to Olyanda, but things get complicated when they discover large reserves of platinum. Both the Trust and Alphacorp are after the platinum and suddenly the colonists are surplus to requirements.

Crossways. Ben, Cara and the psi-techs have taken refuge on Crossways, an independent space station populated by crooks, free-thinkers, subversives, renegades and runaways. Mother Ramona and Norton Garrick, two of the biggest crimelords on the station, would like to legitimise Crossways. They helped Cara and Ben when they most needed it and have proved to be far more reliable friends than the megacorporations. Ben and Cara have promised to find an ark carrying 30,000 cryo-frozen settlers which was abandoned by the bad guys in the first book, but suddenly the hunt for survivors turns into a battle for survival when the combined megacorps decide to take out Crossways and invade Olyanda for its platinum reserves.

Nimbus picks up the story after the battle. The psi-techs are helping to repair and restore Crossways and Cara is searching for what remains of Sanctuary. The megacorporations aren’t going to try another frontal attack, at least not yet, but they still want to get their hands on Olyanda’s platinum. However, that might all prove to be minor compared to a new threat. In the last book Ben discovered void dragons living in foldspace. This led to a confrontation with an entity they’ve named the Nimbus. Ships are disappearing during transit. Is the Nimbus behind the disappearances? Does it have a plan?

CS:  How have the characters in the story evolved?

JB:  Cara, in particular, has to learn to get over her trust issues. She’s very fragile and vulnerable at the beginning of Empire, but then discovers that she’s not going crazy, Alphacorp really is out to get her. Ben learns almost exactly the opposite when someone he trusts turns out to be on the wrong side, for all the right reasons. Both Cara and Ben have to leave the shelter of their respective megacorp behind and become independent.

CS:  Are we mostly seeing the situation from the perspective of the protagonists?  Do we get a glimpse of how ‘the bad guys’ view the galaxy and their relationship with ‘the good guys’?  Do they get to make their case or does the storytelling make certain fundamental assumptions against them?

JB:  It’s mostly from the point of view of the protagonists, but the antagonists do get some point-of-view time. There are three antagonists in the first book. One of them is in it for himself, one is doing everything he can to advance his megacorporation, and the third is the colony leader who does the wrong thing for all the right reasons. He’s ideologically opposed to implantation technology, so he’s having a nightmare time when he has to spend a year in close quarters with psi-techs. He’s not evil, but he makes some terrible decisions, with tragic consequences.

CS:  Is the series finished or will there be sequels and prequels and spinoffs?

JB:  The trilogy is certainly finished, but I never say never again. Cara and Ben aren’t ever going to be able to retire and have an easy life without needing to be problem solvers. I cut loose a couple of favourite characters towards the end of Nimbus and I keep wondering what’s happening to them. I also have a couple of back-burner books that are set on one of the colonies a thousand years in the future when they’ve lost touch with their origins.

CS:  When will we be able to read Rowankind?

JB:  Rowankind looks as though it might be published in late 2018, though there’s still a bit of wibble-room on the timing. I’m still writing the first draft.

CS:  Bring us up to speed on that trilogy.

JB:  Winterwood and Silverwolf are out already. The trilogy is set in 1800 to 1803 in a Britain with magic. Mad King George is on the throne and Napoleon is hammering on the door. The industrial revolution is underway, but not with magic. There’s a race of biddable bonded servants, the rowankind, who have been around for such a long time that everyone’s forgotten their origins. The Mysterium will hang any unlicenced witch they can catch. In the first book, Winterwood, Ross Tremayne is an unlicenced witch who captains her own privateer vessel, dressed as a man. She’s accompanied by a crew of barely-reformed pirates, and the jealous ghost of her dead husband. She makes a deathbed visit to her estranged mother and gets a quest she doesn’t want and a half-brother she didn’t know she had. There’s some lovely rivalry between Ross’ late husband and her new romantic interest, Corwen. In the second book, Silverwolf, we’re dealing with the repercussions from Ross’ success at the end of Winterwood. The rowankind have magic and the Mysterium is beginning to wake up to that fact. We’re also dropped into the middle of Corwen’s family problems which intersect with things going on in the industrial revolution. Ah, I’m trying not to give away too many spoilers here. Let’s say that life is not getting easier for Ross and Corwen. The third book, which I’m writing now, is about Ross and Corwen finding a solution for persecuted magic users.

CS:  Will Rowankind have a different setting than the two previous books?

JB:  No. It carries on from Silverwolf, although the action moves back to London for part of the book. The story setting ranges from the West Country (Devon Cornwall and Somerset) to Yorkshire via London and, as in the other books, they’ll also be at sea on Ross’ ship, the Heart of Oak, visiting some of the pirate islands.

CS:  Will it have different characters?

JB:  It will still be Ross and Corwen taking the lead. It’s all in Ross’ first person viewpoint, so we don’t get to see anything she doesn’t experience. Corwen’s brother Freddie is still causing problems and Ross has promised to try and find out what happened to Olivia’s dad (henry Purdy) after the Mysterium conscripted him into the army. Also, a pirate character I really liked in the first book, Gentleman James Mayo, will turn up again. And we’ll finally get to meet Mad King George, who is mad for a specifically magical reason. Of course, Walsingham is still causing trouble. We never discovered what happened to his notebook—the one with all his dark spells in it.

CS:  What’s at stake for the protagonist and antagonists, in the story arc and in final novel?

JB:  Unless Ross and Corwen can protect the rowankind from the Mysterium the Fae have vowed to intervene, and that’s not going to be good for the country. They could simply decide to wipe out the troublesome humans if they want to. Our heroes need to change the hearts and minds of those in power. And speaking of the Fae, Ross’ brother, David, is having betrothal problems. He’s being pushed towards a marital alliance with Fae nobility, when he really only wants his childhood sweetheart, Annie. Meanwhile, Walsingham is trying to find his notebook before Ross does, and there’s a little matter of revenge for all that’s happened to him. Ross is still growing into her magic and there will be a few discoveries in that direction, too.

CS:  Again, will we see more stories in this universe?

JB:  Rowankind will bring this trilogy to a close, but I keep wondering what Ross and Corwen’s offspring might be like. Shapeshifters? Witches? Both? I like writing in this universe, and – hey – I’ve done a lot of research and it would be a shame to waste it. However, after Rowankind I have another historical fantasy book in preparation – a stand-alone this time – called The Amber Crown. It’s set in an analogue of the Baltic States in the early 1600s, and it’s a political fantasy with magic which brings together three very unlikely protagonists: a failed bodyguard, an assassin and a Romany witch.

Star Trek News and Analysis

Compiled by Carl Slaughter: (1) Star Trek scandals. ScreenRant lists “Star Trek: 15 Dark Behind-The-Scenes Secrets You Never Knew”.

  1. The series creator tried to ruin Wrath of Khan

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was over-budget and underwhelming. In response, Paramount removed Gene Roddenberry as Executive Producer and made him a consultant. They brought in Nicholas Meyer and Harve Bennett to shepherd the sequel, The Wrath of Khan. Only, Leonard Nimoy was going through a phase all Trek actors have: he was sick of playing the character and wanted out. To appease him, it was decided that Spock would be killed off early on.

Then, “somehow,” the script was leaked, and fans had a shared nervous breakdown. The source of the leak was never truly revealed, but the actors and producers largely accept that Gene himself leaked the pages of the script. He was vocal about not wanting Spock killed off and was frustrated with the darker plot, as well as the theme of growing into middle age. He wanted to sabotage the project, or at least have Spock’s death taken out of the script. In the end, it was just rearranged, and, if anything, it made the film even better.

(2) Star Trek controversies: Next, ScreenRant totes up the “15 Most Controversial Things Star Trek Has Done”. Call this the controversial kiss compilation.

  1. Trill Wives Kiss

For all of its inclusiveness regarding things like race and class, Star Trek has always been a bit skittish about portraying gay characters. One of the reasons for this might be how much their simple explorations of any kind of same-sex romance riled audiences up. We can see that at play with Deep Space Nine’s episode “Rejoined”.

While they were introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation, DS9 let us fully explore the aliens known as Trills. Science Officer Jadzia Dax is one such alien, and she hosts a symbiote that has inhabited generations of previous Trills. In “Rejoined”, Dax is reunited with another Trill who used to be her wife in a previous life. Despite cultural laws forbidding it, the two resume their old relationship, giving us our first onscreen, same-sex kiss in Trek history.

The moment was sweet, but very controversial, with some TV stations refusing to air the episode and others editing the kiss out. Paramount was inundated with negative phone calls regarding the episode, forcing staff to work back-to-back shifts just to deal with the volume of calls. While the episode has aged well, Trek hasn’t done much more in terms of gay representation.

(3) Undeveloped Star Trek episodes: Memory Alpha knows about the “Undeveloped Star Trek episodes”.

In his introduction to the 1994 book Lost Voyages of Trek and The Next Generation (p. 3), Edward Gross commented, “Perhaps most surprising in the Star Trek mythos is the sheer quantity – and in many cases quality – of unfilmed adventures that have spanned from the original through various aborted attempts at revival throughout the 1970s and right in to The Next Generation. In many cases, these scripts and treatments were left unfilmed due to political reasons, studio indecisiveness or ego. In others, they just weren’t up to snuff and probably wouldn’t have made a decent episode of Lost in Space.

(4) Star Trek writers talk about the unsold spec stories they wrote and pitched. Vulture talks to the writers about “8 Star Trek Spec Scripts That Never Saw the Light of Day”.

Almost every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series begins, “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilization. To boldly go where no man has gone before.” The opening promised a whole new world of adventure and discovery. And this utopia of exciting new ideas expanded beyond the screen all the way to its writers room: Star Trek had a famous open-submission policy, meaning any writer, anywhere, could submit a script.

The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager helped launch the careers of several great TV writers. Ron D. Moore (Outlander, Battlestar Galactica), Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, American Gods), and René Echevarria (Teen Wolf, Terra Nova, The 4400) all got their start pitching for the show. But spec writing, obviously, didn’t always lead to success (not the first time at least). Sometimes your episode would get produced, sometimes it would get you in the door to pitch, and sometimes, well, you just had to keep trying….

Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once Upon a Time, Husbands, Battlestar Galactica)

The only [spec] whose plot I recall at the moment was the one that got me invited in to pitch at the show. It was about Data using the holodeck to put himself in situations calculated to evoke strong emotions, hoping to feel happiness or love … but when the simulation goes awry (someone reprogrammed it? I forget), he does get a taste of emotion, but it ends up being anger. He has to confront the downside of being like a human being — not all emotions are positive. It reads like it sounds — a fun little thought experiment, certainly not enough to provide the spine of an episode. But it got me in the door!

(5) Jason Isaacs interview: The incoming captain tells Entertainment Weekly how much he admires the archetype — Star Trek’s Jason Isaacs explains why William Shatner is a genius”.

Yeah, what he’s doing with really tough dialogue in those scenes, the way he knows which lines to just casually throw away and others where he just really sells it.

It’s so tough. He sells everything. People who think he’s hammy are people responding to other people doing funny impressions of him. If you watch the original he’s utterly brilliant. He was one of Canada’s top Shakespearian actors. He brings that level of commitment and epic high stakes to what could have been ridiculous dialogue. He and [Leonard] Nimoy together were a genius double. Anyone who thinks they’re hammy should try to do it themselves. I’m trying to do it now and, I’m telling you, it’s not easy.

Sci-Fi Video Roundup for October 16

Compiled by Carl Slaughter: (1) The case for Gul Dukat

(2) Honest Trailers:  Next Generation series

(3) Discovery: Spore travel technology explained

(4) Discovery is really about Section 31

(5) Discovery is being heavily pirated  — Ars Technica says the first two episodes of Discovery are both among the 20 most pirated TV shows.

(6) Orville is Star Trek

(7) Majel  Roddenberry

(8) Batman’s greatest failures

(9) Honest Trailer:  Burton’s first Batman movie

(10) How McDonald’s got Tim Burton fired from Batman

(11) Marvel’s seeming plot holes

(12) Dark side of Star Wars

(13) Why we will never see an Ender’s Game sequel

Science Roundup

Compiled by Carl Slaughter: (1) Black hole pairs: “Scientist Find Treasure Trove of Giant Black Hole Pairs”.

For decades, astronomers have known that Supermassive Black Holes (SMBHs) reside at the center of most massive galaxies. These black holes, which range from being hundreds of thousands to billions of Solar masses, exert a powerful influence on surrounding matter and are believed to be the cause of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN). For as long as astronomers have known about them, they have sought to understand how SMBHs form and evolve.

In two recently published studies, two international teams of researchers report on the discovery of five newly-discovered black hole pairs at the centers of distant galaxies. This discovery could help astronomers shed new light on how SMBHs form and grow over time, not to mention how black hole mergers produce the strongest gravitational waves in the Universe.

(2) It’s for you: “Scientists made the first ‘unhackable’ quantum video call”.

Traditional methods of digital communication rely on certain mathematical functions, which can be hacked with the right tools and know-how. Quantum communications, however, send information embedded in entangled particles of light, in this instance by a satellite named Micius, in a process which is said to be completely unhackable. It’s so secure that anyone even attempting to infiltrate the communication without authorization will be uncovered. As Johannes Handsteiner from the Austrian Academy of Sciences explained, “If somebody attempts to intercept the photons exchanged between the satellite and the ground station and to measure their polarization, the quantum state of the photons will be changed by this measurement attempt, immediately exposing the hackers.”

(3) NASA / Russia moon station: “NASA and Russia agree to work together on Moon space station”.

This is part of NASA’s expressed desire to explore and develop its so-called “deep space gateway” concept, which it intends to be a strategic base from which to expand the range and capabilities of human space exploration. NASA wants to get humans out into space beyond the Moon, in other words, and the gateway concept would establish an orbital space station in the vicinity of the Moon to help make this a more practical possibility.

(4) I like ?. Pi, the Golden Number, impossible engineering, and the Egyptian pyramids..

Alma Alexander’s Collection Benefits Refugees and Migrants

By Carl Slaughter: Keep watching for Alma Alexander’s new collection, Children of a Different Sky, coming out this Fall. It is a themed fantasy anthology, about migrants and refugees, and it is a charity anthology, with all the profits from the sales of the book above anything required for housekeeping and production are going straight to two selected charities working with refugees and migrants both in the USA and globally.

CARL SLAUGHTER:  What prompted you to do an anthology with this theme?

Alma Alexander

ALMA ALEXANDER:  There are seven words that underlie the status of any refugee in the world, ever: “There but for the grace of God…”

It is not a new issue — people who run from disaster in the hope of finding a better future have always been with us. But what IS new is that now it is all being televised on 24-hour 7-days-a-week news channels, always available online on news websites.

We can no longer hide from the misery of these displaced souls because we see them running now — we see them on the crowded boats on open seas, we see them clawing to shore and drowning on the doorstep of salvation, we see them languish in camps where conditions are enough to horrify any sane mind, we see them crowding against barbed wire and against walls and being denied harbor because they are hated and feared and basically unwanted by the populace already on the ground in the places where the migrants wish to go.  People who cannot see that the refugees in this restless and lost crowd might one day, some day, just as easily be themselves.

We see them being stamped on the forehead with their ethnic identity and country of origin, and being denied visas in pieces of legislation from the top of the world’s governments – meeting quotas, or banning outright anyone from country X on the basis that they were born there.

I never ran from a “hot war” but I have family who have done just that. And I, myself, left the country of my birth when I was very young – and got set adrift on the currents of the world. On the one I gained the life experience of living in seven different countries on four different continents before I was 40; On the other hand I lost the threads that bound me to my place of origin, making me a cultural refugee.

It was possibly the reframing of my own existence in those terms that made me eager to do what I could to help other people in a similar or worse situation, and the only way open to do that for someone like myself is to do that thing that I do – Tell Stories. And since there is always strength in numbers and I knew many stellar writers whom I knew I could ask to help this endeavour and who, if they were on board, would make a magnificent contribution.

That is how Children of a Different Sky came to be.

CS:  Why does the speculative fiction community need stories about refugees and immigrants?

AA:  I have always strongly believed that fantasy — not just any stripe of fiction but sometimes outright fantasy — is the only way to tell the real truth.

It isn’t that the speculative fiction community needs stories about refugees and immigrants – it’s that the WORLD does, in order to understand ourselves. These days more than ever just casting one’s eyes over the day’s headlines is enough to make anyone sane want to dive under the covers and refuse to get out of bed. It’s overwhelming, because it’s all too real, happening right now, happening to all of us, and we are all individually too small and too helpless to do anything about it.

But when we pick up a story, we can take that one necessary step back, take a deep breath and since all these things happen to someone in that story rather than to ourselves we can find ways to feel empathy and outrage and anger — and perhaps the strength to take whatever small steps each of us individually can in order to right the world’s gigantic wrongs.

This vision, this strength, this is something that is a gift that speculative fiction can offer — and learning about others, other human beings who have felt the kind of loss and dislocation that any migrant can tell you about, is much easier and much DEEPER when viewed through that thin silver tissue of lies that is fantasy. What we bring is not “truth and nothing but the truth” – but the emotional truth, the human truth. Without that underlay everything is just statistics.

We aren’t telling individuals’ own “true” stories here. First and foremost, we cannot, because these are THEIR stories and not ours and they will choose when or how to tell them. But we are telling stories LIKE theirs, in the hope of shining a light into the dark places where silence can no longer be permitted to linger. We, and our stories, are pulling the curtains open adn saying, look, look at this stage and at the people suffering on it.

CS:  Are there any modern parallels?

AA:  All you need to do is turn on the television, scan the news of the day on your phone, even pick up that dying purveyor of news which our ancestors knew as the newspaper (fewer  and fewer of those. I don’t think I know many people who read an actual paper these days, and some of THOSE only when they’re handed the thing while staying at a hotel or something, as a stopgap measure before they can get back to a digital existence…)

Human migration has always been with us – but it’s only in recent years that it’s become a sort of horrible terrifying reality show. These days you can easily pick up images of bleeding and shell-shocked kids, of women clutching a baby in one hand and a pathetic bundle of possessions in another, of desperate men pushing their families into overcrowded boats and pushing the boats away onto the waters not knowing if they will ever see them again. The sheer weight of heartbreak on the TV news every night can be overwhelming.

And there are always the historical underlays to go back to – things like the concentration camps which awaited those who could not become refugees back in 1940s Germany, and in numberless other places. There is always that dichotomy of taking in those who are fleeing and being afraid to take them in because those already on the ground are afraid of being overwhelmed by them. And yet we keep on creating circumstances, mostly wars, which dislocate more and more people and send them on this endless quest for sanctuary in places strange to them, places which will insist that they lay aside all the things that make them who they are in order to enable them to integrate into a new and unfamiliar place.

The choices are stark, and are made every day, right here, right now – take in everyone? Pick and choose? Pick and choose how? And what if you turn away the little boy who will grow up to become another Steve Jobs, or a little girl who might grow up and find a cure for cancer, or a woman who might give birth to either of those children…?

CS:  Are there any personal connections?

AA:  I began to consider myself a “cultural refugee”, someone who had left behind a native culture as a child and has been unmoored ever since. I have immediate family – a first cousin and (at that time) two very young kids one of whom was still in a stroller – who ran from actual bombs and whose safety was very much an issue at the time. I come from a country which no longer exists, anyway, so I am a refugee in that sense, too. I claim provenance from a place no longer on the maps of the world. So yes, personal connections, in that sense.

But also – I am a storyteller, an empath. I look into the eyes of a child sitting hopeless and hungry in the middle of a row of muddy or dusty tents (it is a blessing if it rains… it is a blessing if it does not…) and I see a yawning chasm of terror and despair. Oh yes, it’s personal. I can see a human being suffer through no fault of their own and my heart goes out to them all.

CS:  What lessons do we take away from these stories?

AA:  We are all human. We need to take care of each other. We NEED to. We need to understand that it isn’t a zero sum game, that it simply isn’t true that for someone to win somebody else has to lose everything.

There has to be a way that our existence matters, has value, and treating any one of us like vermin or worse like collateral damage of no value at all devalues us all. We are human beings, and we have hands and hearts and consciences and spirit and understanding. We are better than our worst aspects. We have to be. We need to live up to our own potential.

Telling stories is one way to bring issues like that to the forefront where they can be picked up and turned over and thought about… maybe that’s what it takes for somebody to gain an understanding of the ties that bind us all.

CS:  Are the stories originals, reprints, or both?

AA:  Two reprints (one story, one poem) and the rest are all luminous, amazing, astonishing originals written for this book.

CS:  What was the selection process?

AA:  There was a core of stories which were solicited from participating authors; there was also an open reading period and several stories came from that “slushpile”, some from names already active in the genre and at least one from a writer who had never submitted a story anywhere before.

The theme of the anthology was the migrant/immigrant/refugee experience, and the story criteria were simple enough: “Make me think; make me feel.”

And oh boy, did the stories in this book deliver on those terms. As an editor, this is a collection of which I am very proud. As a reader…this is one of the most luminous collection of stories I have ever seen in one place. This anthology began as a project with an idea – a charity anthology with proceeds of sales to go to organizations helping migrants and refugees on the ground. During the process of its incarnation, it grew into a living thing with breath and heartbeat.  And every story and poem in this book is one essential component of this transformation.

CS:  Are you at liberty to identify the NGOs that will benefit from this project?

AA:  The organizations chosen as recipients of the proceeds from the sale of this book were chosen by the anthology’s participants from a curated shortlist, That list included some really big fish in this area — organizations such as Unicef, and Doctors WIthout Borders – but those are entities which already, by default, because everyone has heard of them and that’s where they go if they want to make a donation, have a large and remunerative following.

We eventually decided to go with one major recipient, a smaller and more focused organization, the International Medical Corps, and (because one of our authors already has an established connection there) a recipient in the Center for New Americans in Massachusetts.

CS:  What’s on the horizon for Alma Alexander?

AA:  I’m currently working on a new historical fantasy novel, and also tinkering with a new (single author) short story collection, which is at the stage of lacking a couple of key stories that still need to be written — but I am hopeful of getting those ducks in a row soon so at the very least that is likely to see the light of day in 2018.  In the meantime, there are several books which will be seeing reissues in the coming year or two, some newly “remastered” as it were. And I’m mulling the idea for another anthology, soon…